Fantasy Football: 2019 Early Auction Trends

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This is one of my favorite articles to write each year because just like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Record-breaking seasons by Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce (at least for about 2.5 seconds), George Kittle, and Zach Ertz have made them central to auction strategies. Multiple RBs have emerged that can single-handedly dominate fantasy leagues.

It’s early in the season and these drafts started before the 2019 NFL draft so there are some prices that will rise and fall. Regardless, there are some trends and unique situations that are likely to remain leading right up to the season. This article addresses some things you’re likely going to see for your auction leagues.

Prices are based on 12-team bestball drafts. Teams draft 24 players using a $200 budget. Scoring is PPR with lineups that consist of QB-2RB-3WR-TE-Flex-Def-Pk. These drafts took place between February and April. You will need to adapt expected auction values based on your league’s settings.

The Top-Tier that’s Actually Two Tiers

RBs are dominating the top of snake drafts and the same is true in auctions…sort of. The top seven in average auction values are all RBs, but that doesn’t mean it’s one tier(Gurley is technically up there, but sinking like a rock). Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, and Ezekiel Elliott have taken turns as the most expensive RBs in separate auctions. Alvin Kamara is the next most expensive RB, but you can argue he starts another tier since he hasn’t challenged for the most expensive RB and it doesn’t seem likely he will.

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Saquon Barkley $64.00 $67.00 $57.00 $62.67
Christian McCaffrey $68.00 $55.00 $55.00 $59.33
Ezekiel Elliott $55.00 $60.00 $57.00 $57.33
Alvin Kamara $55.00 $53.00 $54.00 $54.00
Todd Gurley $61.00 $50.00 $43.00 $51.33
Melvin Gordon $53.00 $50.00 $46.00 $49.67
Le'Veon Bell $44.00 $56.00 $44.00 $48.00

Even though Barkley, Zeke, McCaffrey, Kamara, Melvin Gordon, and Le’Veon Bell are close in ADPs, there is a clear drop between the top three RBs and the rest in auctions. Keep that in mind when you’re budgeting for your RBs especially if you plan on targeting an elite RB.

The Curious Case of Todd Gurley

I mentioned it earlier, but Gurley’s value is going backwards and quickly. In February he went for $61, in March $50, and he just went for $43 just before the draft. Despite leading all RBs in fantasy scoring in back-to-back years, Gurley’s injury risk is kicking him out of the RB top-tier. The Rams went out and signed Malcolm Brown away from Detroit and then drafted Darrell Henderson. The only RBs drafted higher than Henderson were Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders. Recent drafts have him priced near guys like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and James Conner. The crazy thing is, I’m not sure his value has bottomed out yet. He’s too big a risk even at the recently discounted price.

Wide Receivers

The elite RBs dominating the top of drafts has caused a large tier of elite WRs to form:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
DeAndre Hopkins $52.00 $43.00 $47.00 $47.33
JuJu Smith-Schuster $59.00 $36.00 $40.00 $45.00
Davante Adams $53.00 $40.00 $41.00 $44.67
Michael Thomas $50.00 $39.00 $42.00 $43.67
Odell Beckham $36.00 $43.00 $49.00 $42.67

A few things stick out to me. Davante Adams has yet to be the most expensive WR. He’s been the second-most expensive player only once. This is surprising since he’s consistently the first or second WR drafted in snake drafts. The other thing that sticks out is Odell Beckham Jr. Apparently, people like him even more since his value has trended up since getting traded to Cleveland. The last thing is the value you can get if you target a player in this tier. At least one of these WRs have been $40 or less in every draft.

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$40 so cheap that you can afford to draft combinations like Davante Adams-Melvin Gordon or Michael ThomasMike EvansCooper Kupp and still have plenty left over to build around them. I’m in a fourth auction where I started by drafting Alvin Kamara($47)-Davante Adams($36)-JuJu Smith-Schuster($34). That’s a huge chunk of my budget so I need to wait on some values, but I have enough to find 2-3 solid RBs/WRs in the $10-20 range(You can follow the auction here under Tin Baby 13).

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Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Mike Evans are fairly spread out value wise but another big tier forms around the $25 range:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Keenan Allen $30.00 $26.00 $27.00 $27.67
Adam Thielen $24.00 $28.00 $28.00 $26.67
T.Y. Hilton $29.00 $21.00 $29.00 $26.33
Amari Cooper $26.00 $26.00 $25.00 $25.67
A.J. Green $24.00 $21.00 $25.00 $23.33
Stefon Diggs $23.00 $21.00 $25.00 $23.00

I’m not sure there are many surprises here, but it’s nice to see the consistent prices since they make planning for auctions easier. All six of these receivers are very useful as the second and maybe third receiver on your team. If you’re looking for even cheaper receivers, I give you the Rams receivers:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Brandin Cooks $19.00 $21.00 $23.00 $21.00
Cooper Kupp $18.00 $20.00 $22.00 $20.00
Robert Woods $17.00 $25.00 $17.00 $19.67

I’ve joked about always getting the cheapest Rams receiver and the auction values above are why. I don’t know which one will have the best fantasy season, but I do think they will all be fantasy relevant. The Rams receivers are priced so tightly that their average auction values are back-to-back-to-back. Might as well take the cheapest one.

Tight Ends

It’s the ultimate boom-bust year with TEs. There are the top-3 TEs and then a massive gap before we start seeing TEs again. Here are what the top three are going for:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Travis Kelce $40.00 $35.00 $36.00 $37.00
Zach Ertz $33.00 $24.00 $29.00 $28.67
George Kittle $30.00 $26.00 $25.00 $27.00

The values of the top-3 TEs are anchored to each other, but Travis Kelce is going to cost you roughly $10 more than Zach Ertz and/or George Kittle. The rest of the TEs are way behind the top three:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Hunter Henry $9.00 $9.00 $13.00 $10.33
Eric Ebron $11.00 $8.00 $10.00 $9.67
O.J. Howard $6.00 $8.00 $11.00 $8.33
David Njoku $5.00 $8.00 $10.00 $7.67
Jared Cook $5.00 $7.00 $8.00 $6.67
Evan Engram $4.00 $6.00 $10.00 $6.67

It hasn’t happened yet, but Vance McDonald and Kyle Rudolph might start edging into that tier as well. Since the cost is roughly the same, it’s basically TE Russian Roulette in auctions if you skip on the first three.

Patrick Mahomes

Patrick Mahomes is a mixed bag in auctions. Deshaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers were consistently going for $22-27 last year, but the most I’ve seen Mahomes go for in three auctions is $27. I’m shocked Mahomes hasn’t gone for well over $30, but the final auction value doesn’t tell the whole story. In two of those auctions, the high bid was actually $50 or more. It just so happened nobody else bid nearly that much. I’m pretty sure we’re going to see higher prices especially as the situation in Kansas City clears up, but you shouldn’t assume he’s going to be too expensive. I’m normally a subscriber to the Late Round QB strategy┬ábut Mahomes is a special case. I generally won’t pay more than $15 for a QB, but I’d extend that to $25 for Mahomes. The tricky part is you can end up trapping yourself a little if you are holding out hope for Mahomes.

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The trouble with waiting to see if you can get a deal on Mahomes is that you’re probably consciously or subconsciously reserving $25-30 to get him. You don’t want to be passing on stud RBs and WRs hoping that Mahomes will be a great deal later on. Make it an easy decision for you and nominate him early.

Chicago Defense

I think nomination strategy is a little overblown sometimes, but I do have a few cards up my sleeve. One of them is throwing out the top defense when teams start paying up for players. Sometimes prices are high out of the gate and sometimes it happens after the first 30 or so players are auctioned. Either way, Chicago will get nominated fairly early by me(if someone doesn’t beat me to it) and here’s why:

Player Feb Auction Mar Auction Apr Auction Avg
Chicago Def $11.00 $5.00 $4.00 $6.67

The $4 pick was OK, $5 is more than I would pay, but $11 is crazy for a defense! If you really like having the top defense, go ahead and nominate them for $4 but be prepared to walk away if there’s a bidding war. No other defense has averaged more than $4 this year so let other people spend too much on defenses and nab a cheap one later.

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